A little more than two years ago, we introduced an exciting new research project that used DTAGs to look at the health and welfare of our group of bottlenose dolphins here at Brookfield Zoo. The DTAG, short for “Digital Acoustic Recording Tag”, is a type of bio-logging device used to track and monitor the movement of whales and dolphins. They function much like a Fit-Bit© by recording the acceleration, orientation, and depth of the animal. In addition, they record information about the environment including temperature, sounds the animals make, and ambient sound in their environment.

Over the last two years, Brookfield Zoo has partnered with the University of Michigan to develop a complimentary tag for the Cetacean Welfare Study called the MTag, or Movement Tag. Similar to the DTAG, the MTag is a motion sensing data logger that is attached to the dolphin’s back using four suction cups and records acceleration, speed, angular rate, temperature, and depth. The MTag also measures speed using a small impellor that spins as the dolphin swims through the water, and allows us to also calculate the distanced traveled by the animal when wearing the tag.

As part of the Cetacean Welfare Study, bottlenose dolphins in seven countries – spread across four continents – are wearing the MTag once a week for part of this summer. The dolphins will don the MTags again for a second round of data collection in early 2019. These MTags are essential for collecting fine-scale, continuous movement, activity, and spatial data that will be combine with other types of data further our understanding of cetacean welfare.

We would like to thank Dolphin Adventure, Dolphin Quest, and Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park for supporting this initiative and providing photos of their dolphins wearing the MTags. 

Published November 5, 2018